Sep
17
2010

Sneering, Inaccurate Reporting on French Workers–Again

French protesters took to the streets early this month in opposition to proposed austerity measures that would, among other things, delay the legal age for receiving retirement benefits. The passage of such a bill on September 15 by the lower house of France's legislature, the National Assembly, occasioned further protests. (The bill hasn't come before France's upper house.)

Though U.S. news outlets like to claim objectivity, the actual rules of corporate journalism allow for mockery and derision of people and ideas that don't fit a corporate-friendly template. As FAIR has documented throughout the years, U.S. corporate media despise French workers, routinely casting them as lazy, spoiled and demanding, and in need of having austerity measures imposed upon them (e.g., here, here and here).

This helps to explain why the Associated Press found it permissible to ridicule the significance of increasing the age for French pensions from 60 to 62, reporting in the lead of its news story, "France's National Assembly voted to delay retirement until the ripe old age of 62."

It may also explain why the AP can't be bothered to get facts straight. The law passed by the French National Assembly would raise the legal age for receiving partial retirement benefits from 60 to 62 in 2018; the French are also increasing eligibility for full a pension entitlement, from 65 to 67. Not much different than the U.S.'s Social Security system, where one can get partial retirement benefits at 63. (Sixty-seven is considered the "normal" retirement age in the U.S., though one gets maximum benefits by delaying retirement until 70.)

A Wall Street Journal report about the proposed French changes came with lavish graphs, including one comparing the ages at which retirees receive pensions from country to country. The graph accurately listed the U.S. at 67 years old, the age at which a normal pension is awarded (to those born after 1960); but the age listed for France, which should have been 65, was listed as 60.

The AP and the Wall Street Journal were not the only outlets botching the reporting. U.S. outlets that failed to stipulate that the 60 to 62 age change was only for partial benefits included the New York Times, Washington Post and CNN. In fact, reporting that accurately explained that that the French plan was to increase the age for full retirement benefits from 65 to 67 was the exception.

But reporting the story factually would diminish its French worker-bashing value and, besides, no one important got hurt.

About Steve Rendall

Senior Media Analyst and Co-producer of CounterSpin Steve Rendall is FAIR's senior analyst. He is co-host of CounterSpin, FAIR's national radio show. His work has received awards from Project Censored, and has won the praise of noted journalists such as Les Payne, Molly Ivins and Garry Wills. He is co-author of The Way Things Aren't: Rush Limbaugh's Reign of Error (The New Press, 1995, New York City). Rendall has appeared on dozens of national television and radio shows, including appearances on CNN, C-SPAN, CNBC, MTV and Fox Morning News. He was the subject of a profile in the New York Times (5/19/96), and has been quoted on issues of media and politics in publications such as the Chicago Tribune, Washington Post and New York Times. Rendall contributed stories to the International Herald Tribune from France, Spain and North Africa; worked as a freelance writer in San Francisco; and worked as an archivist collecting historical material on the Spanish Civil War and the volunteers who fought in it. Rendall studied philosophy and chemistry at San Francisco State University, the College of Notre Dame and UC Berkeley.